Osteoarthritis treatment may combine medication for pain relief and home remedies to manage or reduce symptoms. Doctors may also recommend lifestyle changes. Surgery may be an option in severe cases.

Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, doctors can recommend various medications to help ease pain and reduce inflammation. Home remedies such as applying cool packs and gentle exercise may also help a person to manage symptoms or prevent flare-ups.

Read on to find out more about the treatment options for osteoarthritis. This article discusses medical treatments and home remedies, lifestyle changes, and surgery.

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There are various medications a doctor may recommend for osteoarthritis. Some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. The doctor will be able to advise on which medications they recommend and how often to take them.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most common type of medication used for managing pain associated with osteoarthritis.

NSAIDs help reduce inflammation and ease pain. Examples include:

Doctors may recommend oral or topical NSAIDs. Topical NSAIDs are creams or ointments that a person applies directly to the affected joints.

Topical NSAIDs generally have fewer side effects than oral NSAIDs, so they may be beneficial if a person has a sensitivity or intolerance to oral NSAIDs.

Learn more about NSAIDs.


Analgesics can help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is available over the counter or by prescription when used in combination with opioids, which are prescription-only medications.

Learn more about analgesics.


Corticosteroids, or steroids, are prescription-strength medications. They can help reduce inflammation.

A doctor may recommend either oral or injectable corticosteroids. Due to the risk of side effects, a person typically only takes corticosteroids for a short amount of time.

Learn more about corticosteroids.


Duloxetine (Cymbalta) is an antidepressant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the oral medication for the treatment of osteoarthritis pain.

Duloxetine is believed to increase levels of neurotransmitters that can help calm pain signals, providing pain relief. It may be most beneficial when added to a regimen that includes acetaminophen or NSAIDs.


Pregabalin (Lyrica) is an antiseizure medication. The FDA also approved this oral medication for treating pain associated with osteoarthritis.

Similar to duloxetine, pregabalin affects the channels in the brain to help decrease sensitivity to pain. It may work best when combined with first-line treatment options for arthritis.

Platelet-rich plasma

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is a newer treatment that some doctors may recommend for treating osteoarthritis, particularly osteoarthritis of the knee.

PRP is an injectable treatment. The FDA has not approved this treatment yet as evidence is still emerging.

Learn more about PRP.

Capsaicin cream

A doctor may recommend capsaicin cream if other topical ointments have not helped with managing osteoarthritis pain.

Capsaicin cream works by blocking pain signals from nerve endings. As the product derives from chili peppers, it is generally not suitable for applying to sensitive areas. Learn more about capsaicin cream.

Learn more about osteoarthritis medications.

Home remedies may help a person reduce pain associated with osteoarthritis. A doctor may recommend home remedies alongside medication.

Home remedies for osteoarthritis can include:

  • applying a hot pack or cold pack to the affected joints
  • wearing shock-absorbing insoles or footwear to help ease pressure on the joints when walking
  • using a walking aid to assist with mobility and ease pain when moving around
  • wearing a splint to help the joints rest

A doctor may refer a person to an occupational therapist to help them make adaptations to their daily routines. They can help a person find new ways to perform tasks in ways that put less pressure on the joints. This might include using assistive devices to ease pressure on the hands when gripping or turning.

Learn about occupational therapy.

A doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help a person manage symptoms of osteoarthritis.


Gentle exercise can help with managing osteoarthritis. Examples include:

  • strengthening exercises such as light weightlifting and resistance band use
  • aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, and cycling
  • range-of-movement or flexibility exercises, which involve bending and stretching the joints

It is best for a person to contact a doctor for advice before beginning a new exercise plan. The doctor will be able to advise on which exercises can help based on the individual’s condition.

Learn about exercises for arthritis of the knee.

Weight management

Osteoarthritis most often affects the joints that bear the most weight. This includes the knees and the feet.

Maintaining a moderate weight can help relieve stress on the joints. This in turn may help:

  • ease pain
  • increase mobility
  • reduce the risk of injury

Learn more about lifestyle changes and natural treatments for osteoarthritis.

If symptoms do not respond to other treatments, a doctor may recommend surgery for osteoarthritis.

An osteotomy procedure involves relieving pressure on the joint by removing a small piece of bone.

Joint replacement surgery involves removing either part of or all the damaged joint. The surgeon will then replace it with a prosthetic joint made from plastic, metal, or ceramic.

A doctor will be able to advise on whether and when they recommend surgery for a person with osteoarthritis and answer any questions they may have.

Learn more about arthritis surgery.

A person may be able to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis or slow down the progression of the condition. Tips that can help include:

  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • getting enough regular physical activity or exercise
  • managing blood sugar, as high blood sugar can cause cartilage to stiffen
  • protecting the joints during physical activity or manual work

It is best that a person contacts a doctor for advice if they have concerns about osteoarthritis or if they wish to discuss their current treatment plan and ways to slow down progression.

Learn more about preventing arthritis.

Doctors may recommend a combination of medication, home remedies, and lifestyle changes for the treatment of osteoarthritis. If symptoms do not respond to these treatments, surgery may be an option.

Medication for osteoarthritis can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. A person can receive certain medications orally, via an injection, or through a topical ointment.

Home remedies include applying heat or cold to the affected joints, using mobility aids, and resting the joint by wearing a splint. An occupational therapist can also recommend assistive devices and ways to ease stress on the joints during daily tasks.

Getting enough regular physical activity or exercise and maintaining a moderate weight can help manage symptoms of osteoarthritis and slow down the progression of the condition.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have concerns about osteoarthritis or if they wish to discuss their treatment options.